It’s not Terry’s day. First of all Des cons him into delivering a car which is later used in an armed robbery. But that pales into insignificance thanks to Arthur’s latest minding job. It should be straightforward – accompanying Lady Margaret Thompson (Angela Browne) on a few odd jobs, such as a shopping trip to Harrods. But after Terry is arrested for shoplifting he faces a court appearance. Luckily Arthur offers his services as a character witness ….
Caught in the Act, Fact is an episode which sees Terry used as a fall-guy on multiple occasions. Firstly, it’s Des who incurs his displeasure after the trusting Terry delivers a hot motor for him. Terry’s about to inflict some serious damage on Des when Arthur appears. After Terry explains why he’s about to dish out his own brand of summary justice, Arthur sorrowfully tells Des that what he did wasn’t very nice. “I don’t want to be nice Arthur, I just want to be rich” replies Des, which doesn’t improve Terry’s temper! Des later backtracks and claims this was a joke, but although he’s always been an affable and amusing character, Des is also a crook and it’s easy to believe he knew exactly what he was doing.
Arthur’s latest scheme is a beauty – goldfish for old clothes. Arthur subcontracts Stevie (Colin Proctor) to go round the estate, collecting clothes from children in exchange for goldfish (“Old Clothes for Fish”). This is ridiculous, even for Arthur, although you have to love the way he proudly shows off his goldfish to Terry. Terry agrees that, yes, they’re goldfish but Arthur’s ripsote is “goldmine, Terry. Goldmine”.
Arthur’s explanation as to why a goldfish would make the perfect pet is another priceless moment. “There is nothing wrong with a goldfish. It would be a good friend. Loyal, trusting, quiet. And the nice thing about them is if they start to give you any hump you can always flush them down the toilet”.
But Terry’s not interested in being a goldfish handler. Eventually he admits to a chortling Arthur that he doesn’t like the thought of touching them. Of course, had Terry taken the fishy job then he wouldn’t have got tangled up with Des. So for once sticking with Arthur would have been the safer option.
As Terry’s prints were found on the car, Chisholm is more than interested in him. Maybe Arthur hopes that minding Lady Margaret will take his mind off his problems. Although Arthur can’t resist instructing his associate about exactly how he should behave when attending the gentry. Terry tells him that he’ll be sure to tug his forelock every so often.
Lady Margaret’s story has some parallels to the real-life Lady Isobel Barnett, although this must have been a coincidence (albeit an eerie one, as Lady Isobel committed suicide in October 1980, a few days after being found guilty of shoplifting goods to the value of eighty seven pence. This episode of Minder was recorded in August 1980 and broadcast in November 1980).
Although Arthur is told, off-screen, by Lady Margaret’s husband Harry (Glyn Houston) about her little “problem”, he doesn’t let Terry know. This is rather odd – when the pair meet up with Harry he assumes that Terry’s been fully briefed. Otherwise, how would he be able to spot the warning signs when Lady Margaret decides to pick up something without paying? He can’t, of course, meaning that Terry is forced to carry the can after Harry and Lady Margaret disown him.
When Terry finds himself in court, he needs all the friends he can get – and this is where Arthur comes in. There are few more glorious sights than Arthur Daley in full flow and the tone is set from the moment he steps into the witness box. “I swear by almighty god the evidence I give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, stand on me”.
When Des later tells Terry that Arthur did him a right turn in the courtroom, Dave counters with “gave him a right turn you mean”. Tony Hoare’s script is typically sharp, with exchanges like this occurring throughout.
The sight of Arthur playing golf with Harry is another scenario that’s ripe with comic potential. And Arthur doesn’t disappoint, chuckling that there’s nothing wrong with him when Harry wonders what his handicap is. These scenes don’t advance the plot at all but they’re worth it for the sight of Arthur in his tartan bobble hat alone ….
On the trivia front, this episode sees the first appearance of DC Jones, although he’s played here by Ken Sharrock rather than Michael Povey. It’s also worth listening out for the phone call that Harry receives from Chisholm some thirty five minutes in. I don’t know who was on the phone, but it certainly wasn’t Patrick Malahide ….
Juggling three plotlines – the stolen car, fish for clothes and Lady Margaret – there’s certainly plenty going on. It’s a shame that Angela Browne doesn’t have more screentime, but that’s about the only drawback I can find in another strong script.